EXCL: Jose Enrique believes current Spain squad can come close to 2008-2012 golden generation

Spain have made an excellent start to Euro 2024, winning their opening two matches against good opponents: 3-0 vs Croatia, and 1-0 vs Italy. Not only have the results been good, the performances have been excellent too. This has led many observers to raise their expectation of La Roja’s potential success in Germany.

One person that fancied Spain from the start was former Villarreal, Newcastle United and Liverpool defender, Jose Enrique. Speaking in collaboration with Grosvenor Sport, he told Football España why he believes that Luis de la Fuente’s side have what it takes to go all the way this summer.

“I was the first one to say that Spain are one of the underdogs. They are no longer one of the favourites after the golden generation of Villa, Torres, Iniesta and co, but the reality is that we always have a good team. The key for us is that we are no longer just a tiki-taka team – we have Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal on the wings, it helps a lot because Spain always used to play through the middle. We used to have number 10s before, rather than actual wingers, but now we have players that can take opponents on in 1v1 situations.

“We were great against Italy, and also great in the first time (against Croatia). The reality now is that we are one of the favourites to win the competition. Of course, there are still plenty of very good national teams out there in Germany.

“We dominated the game against Italy, who were very defensive. We just killed them, we had many chances but we won with an own goal. We need to improve our finishing, but the reality is that Spain is playing really well.

It feels like the start of a new era in Spanish football. De la Fuente’s reign started poorly last March with the defeat to Scotland in Euro 2024 qualifying, but since then, Spain have been near-perfect. They won the Nations League last summer after defeating Italy and Croatia again in The Netherlands, so could it be back-to-back continental championships for La Roja?

Enrique touched before on the Spanish golden generation of 2008-2012, when the national team won Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 in a four-three span under the guidance of Luis Aragones firstly, and then Vicente del Bosque. He believes that the current group have the potential to bring more success back to Spain, and he explained why.

“I think so, yes. However, we don’t have a great striker. Alvaro Morata had a great season, but he’s not in the same calibre as David Villa or Fernando Torres. But nowadays, it’s important that we have wingers that are so strong in 1v1 situations in Nico (Williams) and (Lamine) Yamal. With those two, anything can happen.

“In the middle, we have Pedri. He’s a similar profile as Xavi or Iniesta, although he has a long way to go to reach their levels. We also have Rodri, the best number six in the world. Fabian is a top player too. We have a lot of boxes ticked to be one of the best national teams now and in the future. The only problem is the striker, but let’s see how Morata gets on for the rest of the tournament.

“I think it can be a good era for Spain. If we can win a tournament, it can give us the confidence to keep going.”

It’s easy to see why there is some much confidence in the current crop of Spanish players. There are so many talented younger players in-and-around the national team – this includes the aforementioned Nico Williams, Lamine Yamal and Pedri, but there are also Pau Cubarsi, Fermin Lopez, Alex Baena, Samu Omorodion, Hector Fort and many, many more. De la Fuente could be the perfect coach to blend these players into La Roja, given that he previously managed the U19s and U21s. He knows how to manage the youngsters to their full potential.

Back to this summer, Enrique ran the rule over the squad that de la Fuente has at his disposal. Based on the opening two matches, he gave his assessment of La Roja’s most crucial players – the one that could fire them to a fourth European Championship title.

“The three key players for Spain are Rodri, Nico (Williams) and (Lamine) Yamal. If those three play, we are capable of beating anyone. The two wingers can cause a lot of problems for the opposition defence, they can create more space in the middle for the midfield to dominate. And with Rodri, he is crucial to dictating how Spain play. He has a deeper role with the national team – at Man City he plays as a box-to-box midfielder – but he supports the defence so much. I think he is our most important player.”

It does appear to be a very exciting time for Spanish football, with so many promising young players coming through the ranks. With this in mind, it will also be interesting to see how La Rojita get on at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. For now, keep an eye on Spain going far at Euro 2024.

Tags Jose Enrique La Roja Spain
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